Top 5 Credit Cards for International Students in the USA

Credit cards
Credit Cards

A lot of international students late summer and fall settle in the USA for their undergraduate and graduate programs.

Here are the Top 5 Credit Card Recommendations for International students in the USA-

Now the first question that comes to our mind when we think of a credit card is, “What makes a good student credit card?” 

Attributes of a Good Student Credit Card-

1)$0 Annual fee-Since you are on a budget in your student years, preserving your savings for other important things like rent and food should be your priority.

2)Many international students don’t have an SSN, a credit history, or an income for that matter. But it should not stop you from getting rewards. Getting a fair share of points on purchases is always nice.

3)Should not have focus transaction fees. Having a card where you don’t have to pay any additional fees when you are traveling back home is always nice for international students, as they do travel every once in a while.

Here are the Top 5 Credit Cards that satisfy most if not all of the requirements-

1)Discover it (Regular and Student Versions)

This credit card is popular among international students because it has a 

  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 5% cash back on rotating categories every quarter
  • Up to $1500 on purchases
  • 1 % cashback on everything else

And that’s not all. If you are a student, you are also eligible for credit for good grades. This is an additional $20 for a GPA of 3.0 or above.

The best thing about this credit card is that they match your entire cashback after the first year.

Ex: If you have earned $300 in cashback, Discover will give you another $300 at the end of the first year.


2)Deserve Edu Mastercard

This is unique because you don’t need a social security number like most other cards. SSN is a unique 9-digit identifier given to all US residents.

  • $0 Annual Fee & Foreign Transaction Fees (FTF)
  • 1 % cashback across all purchases
  • 1 year of Amazon Prime student after $500 of purchases in your first 3 billing cycles
  • Cell phone insurance for up to $600 for a stolen or damaged phone.

Need: a US passport, a US bank account, and some other basic information.

This means you can get started on your credit-building journey much earlier with this card.


3)Chase Freedom Student Card

  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 1 % cash back on all purchases
  • $20 bonus on each account anniversary for up to 5 years.
  • Additionally, $50 welcome bonus for signing g up with this card.

It allows you to build a relationship with Chase early for their better cards later on. They also provide free travel and other perks.


4)Bank of America Cash Rewards Card

  • 3% back on the category of your choice

When selecting a 3% back bonus category, you can choose one of the following six options: –

  1. Gas
  2. Online Shopping
  3. Dining
  4. Travel
  5. Drugstores
  6. Home improvement and furnishings
  • 2% back on grocery and wholesale clubs up to $2000 
  • 1% back on everything else
  • If you make $1000 in purchases during your first 90 days, you get a $200 bonus as well.

Many students reported getting accepted for this card without an SSN. So, it’s a pretty good option for your first few months in the US. Just remember that when you do get an SSN you do link your credit card to it.


5)Capital One Journey Card

  • $0 Annual Fee & Foreign Transaction Fees (FTF)
  • 1% cash back on all purchases + 0.25% bonus if you make your payments on time.
  • $60 in credits for select streaming services in the first year.
  • Increase credit limit with them after 5 on-time payments.

Can be approved easily and is a no-frills starter card.


Why is credit building important?

Credit history plays a crucial role in buying a house, or a car, renting an apartment and taking out a personal loan. A strong credit history shows that you are a reliable borrower, which qualifies you for a lower interest rate.

The sooner you start building your credit, the better. Credit cards are the easiest way to increase your credit history. Use it to pay for groceries, your phone bill, cable, or anything else that you know you can use it for. Make sure to pay off the balance in full every month.

You should never put yourself in a position where you end up missing a payment and having to pay interest because of it. Consistent, timely payments are the No. 1 contributing factor to your credit score. Keep doing this for a few years, and you will have excellent credit.

Why should you use a credit card over a debit card?

In addition to building your credit history and giving you cashback, credit cards also offer fraud protection. If someone steals your credit card and runs a bunch of charges, you can call up your issuer and tell them not to pay them. It’s not your money after all. However, it is considerably more challenging to get your own money back if the same thing occurs with a debit card.

Approval Hacks

If you are having trouble getting approved for any of the cards mentioned above, here are a couple of lesser-known hacks that might help-

1) Get a secured credit card; most regular credit cards function as unsecured cards. This means that they are not backed up by any form of security deposit, which can make it difficult to get approval for an international student.

You can go for Discover and Capital One Credit Card.

2) To be added as an authorized user on somebody else’s account.

It means joint responsibilities for both parties. So if you have an aunt or a brother who really trusts you and is already living in the US, this can help improve your credit history. Some banks don’t even require an SSN to be added as an authorized user.

Just make sure to call up the credit card company and ensure that they report authorized user activity to all the credit bureaus.

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